New NBA league marks growing U.S. influence in African culture markets
The NBA announced last month that it would launch the Basketball African League (BAL), marking another advancement for U.S. commercial influence in African markets.
Why it matters: China's development of large infrastructure projects in Africa is often cited as evidence of the country's dominance in its economic rivalry with the U.S. But the U.S. continues to make gains in the creative industries on the continent, as entertainment, media and sports are becoming more important to Africa’s young, urban and increasingly connected population.
Background: The BAL announcement comes after decades of NBA involvement in Africa. Since 2003, the NBA has held Basketball Without Borders events, its primary development and community outreach program, across the continent, and in 2017 opened the NBA Academy Africa in Senegal to train elite male and female prospects.
- NBA’s commitment has led to more than 80 current and former NBA players either from Africa or with direct ties to the continent.
What they're saying: In a statement about BAL, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that the league is "committed to using basketball as an economic engine to create new opportunities in sports, media and technology across Africa."
- In 2016, the league reached a multiyear deal with Econet Media to broadcast over 500 NBA and WNBA games each season.
- Additionally, the league brought the game’s biggest players to South Africa for the All-Star NBA Africa game in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
The big picture: The NBA isn't the only U.S. company looking to tap into Africa’s growing media and entertainment markets. In December, Netflix declared plans to invest in original series from Africa, and in February it announced its order of a South African teen series titled "Blood & Water."
- Netflix's decision came after Hollywood saw unprecedented success with "Black Panther," which received a warm welcome and sold out movie theaters across the continent.
The bottom line: The BAL is an investment in strengthening American goodwill in African countries and could herald future U.S.-African partnerships in sports and entertainment.
Aubrey Hruby is a senior fellow in the Atlantic Council's Africa Center.